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Thursday, November 16th 2006

A Hero Dies

Milton Friedman thought the American Medical Association was a racket, given power over America’s medical system by the government.

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Despite that, I share and he has influenced my world view so much that it is only proper to mourn his passing.

Milton Friedman, the grandmaster of conservative economic theory in the post-World War II era and a prime force in the movement of countries toward lesser government, greater reliance on free markets and individual responsibility, died Thursday. He was 94 years old.

He was a guiding force for the economics espoused by President Ronald Reagan in the United States and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Britain. He was the spiritual heir to Adam Smith, the 18th-century founder of the science of economics and proponent of laissez-faire: that the government that governs least, governs best.

The only economic lever that Friedman would advocate government to use was the one that controlled the supply of money – a monetarist view that had gone out of favor when he embraced it in the 1950s. He went on to record a signal achievement, predicting the unprecedented combination of rising unemployment and rising inflation that came to be called stagflation. His work earned him the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science in 1976.

As the article notes, rarely has a theoretical economist had such huge influence on actual policy in his own time. Friedman was a huge part of the 80s conservative revolution (both with Reagan and internationally), and as strong as his reasoning and analytical skills are, he must be remembered for the direction he helped lead history as much for any paper he actually published.

Part of that success lied in a desire to teach and to bring his ideas to a broad and wide audience. This was no ivory tower academic. Take for example his 1980s video lecture/documentary series entitle Free to Choose which ran on public broadcasting.

Milton Friedman, you will be missed.